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A little bit of kindness is going a long way in memory of two-year-old from East London

Ava on bouncy castleTags Adults , Business , Children , Council , Family , N/A , Residents , Teenagers

A rapidly growing chain of colourful paper bears is spreading kindness across the UK in memory of little Ava Cottle from Dagenham. The cheerful two-year-old tragically passed away on Mother’s Day this year following a brave battle with leukaemia.

Inspired by acts of generosity and support from the local community during Ava’s final months, family friend Sam Gosby began Ava’s Chain of Kindness to bring people together and spread kindness and positivity. At the height of the pandemic, during a national lockdown, Sam poignantly said: “At a time when we can’t hold hands, our bears can.”

Fittingly, Ava was the first to decorate a bear, followed closely by her older brother Henley-Joe and his peers at Hunters Hall Primary School in Dagenham. And once schools in Barking and Dagenham got involved, it wasn’t long before over 10,000 other bears joined the chain.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council has supported the campaign from the beginning. The message on his bear reads: ‘Kindness is in everyone. It takes special angels like Ava to unlock it. A beacon of hope.’ Councillor Rodwell said: “I have been in awe of Ava’s Chain of Kindness.

“Ava’s death was devastating to her family and our whole community - taking the pain of losing a child and turning it into something positive is such an inspiring thing to do.”

The campaign continues to go from strength to strength and is also fundraising for the charity Young Lives vs Cancer, which has supported Ava’s family since her diagnosis. Supported by the charity, the Chain of Kindness continues to capture hearts across the UK, with Morrisons stores from Scotland to Somerset hosting bears for customers to personalise.

“At a time when we can’t hold hands, our bears can.”

paper bear chain in school hall

Ava’s parents, Cherry and Leigh Cottle thanked the community for their support: “Thank you for all the messages and support, it’s helped us through, there are so many kind people out there in what can be a cruel world.”

A recent fundraising event at Valence House Museum in Dagenham raised nearly £1,000 for Young Lives Cancer. The museum displayed the chain for the community to see, and families enjoyed a big bear hunt, a ‘bearbola’, a bake sale, crafts and a silent auction.

Becky Clements, Fundraising and Engagement Manager at Young Lives vs Cancer, said: “It’s wonderful to see Ava’s family doing such a fantastic thing to connect children across the UK, creating something positive in Ava’s memory.

“We rely entirely on donations to fund our vital work, so we can’t thank everyone who supports the campaign enough – thanks to them, we’ll be able to help more young people thrive, not just survive after their cancer diagnosis.”

Looking to get involved?

You can play your part in this amazing campaign by emailing avaschainofkindness@outlook.com, or by looking out for bears in your nearest participating Morrisons store.

To donate to Young Lives vs Cancer, text CHAINOFKINDNESS 3 to 70450 to donate £3, or CHAINOFKINDNESS 5 to donate £5.

You can also visit the JustGiving page here: www.justgiving.com/team/avacottlefund

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